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Be the heroes our country needs

In 2020, I wrote about the heroes we need, stressing that we have to keep them alive to help us survive the COVID-19 global scourge. They need to be encouraged, supported, and empowered, not scolded by authorities when they highlight real issues, or, worse, Red-tagged when their efforts tend to eclipse those of the state.

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I wish to once again trumpet the need for more heroes, especially those working selflessly on the trenches of our war against poverty and ignorance.

It is timely to make this call, now that it is clear who the main contenders for the 2022 elections are. We definitely need better leaders and they can become our heroes, but the heroes we need are already among us, struggling with us but always rising to the occasion to inspire and encourage people to take control of their lives and kindling hope even in the darkest of times. Their love of country is one that fires in their hearts. And many of these everyday heroes probably make greater and more genuine sacrifices than a Bongbong, Manny, Isko, Bong or, yes, even a Leni (Leni always stresses this so much more than any other candidate as far as I know).

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Our everyday heroes tell each one of us that we can and should all be heroes, too.

The timeliness of trumpeting everyday heroes is what drove the Phinma group to mark its 65th year this November by giving the virtual stage to Professor Ed Garcia, Atom Araullo, and Patricia Non to share their stories about love of country. Listening to these heroes, many of us were most certainly given “booster shots of inspiration and hope,” as Ramon del Rosario put it in his opening remarks.

Peace and human rights advocate Ed Garcia explained how we all make democracy work through our votes and encouraged each member of the audience to “have faith in the Filipino… Love our country by doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways and by dreaming big but taking it one step at a time, and keep hope alive in your own way, at your own pace, and in your own manner and by being the best you can be today, on election day, and beyond.”

Journalist and UNHCR Philippines Goodwill Ambassador Atom Araullo reminded us that as we all become more and more active digital citizens, we all need to learn to be responsible online journalists as well and help guard our democracy and the truth. “Huwag magpapadala sa fake news,” he said. “I-verify and mga impormasyong inyong nakikita. Maging kritikal at bukas sa lahat ng panig. Huwag lang puro entertainment, lalo na online.”

Community pantry organizer and advocate Patricia “Patreng” Non, recalling her humbling experience trying to address hunger in pandemic times, shared her belief that we are all capable of becoming heroes. “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan. Sapat na po ’yun,” she told the audience. “Hindi hadlang ang edad sa pangangarap. Mangarap pa rin tayo para sa community, habang nangangarap para sa sarili.”

I had the opportunity to wrap up the forum and I simply summarized the common message of Ed, Atom, and Patreng by encouraging everyone to make every day an opportunity to make someone’s life better, and make the Philippines a wee bit better in one’s own ways. Ramon del Rosario, explaining why we must do our part to build a better Philippines, quoted Filipino nationalist, lawyer, and statesman Jose W. Diokno: “There is one dream that we all Filipinos share: that our children may have a better life than we have had. To make this country, our country, a nation for our children.”

From today until May 2022 and beyond, we can all be, and need to be, heroes for our children. As some foreigners visiting the Philippines have noted, love of country is what we as a people lack. Time to prove otherwise, mga kababayan!

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Peter Angelo V. Perfecto was former executive director of Makati Business Club, works with the Phinma group, and chairs Oxfam Pilipinas. Email: [email protected]

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Business Matters is a project of Makati Business Club.

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TAGS: coronavirus philippines, modern day heroes, Poverty
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